Pro-GOP Astroturf Group Running Deceitful Attack Ads Against Senate Democrats

The 60 Plus Association has launched a series of “issue ads” attacking Senate Democrats up for re-election this November. On the surface, they appear to be a concerned group of senior citizens worried about the future of Medicare — but a closer examination reveals that the ads are really dishonest hits by a Republican-linked astroturf group.

Since 1992, 60 Plus has presented itself as a “seniors advocacy group with a free enterprise, less government, less taxes approach to seniors issues” and the “conservative alternative” to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). But unlike the 40-million-member AARP, 60 Plus is largely an “astroturf” with close ties to Republican direct mail pioneer Richard Viguerie, according to a 2003 AARP Bulletin report.

The series of ads — virtually identical in content — feature 1950s pop star Pat Boone criticizing Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Jon Tester (D-MT). Boone, 77, a long time right-wing extremist, has previously compared liberals to cancer and called President Obama’s birth certificate a “photo-shopped fraud.”

The text of the anti-Tester spot:


Boone: Hi friend. I’m Pat Boone. Last year a lot of promises were made regarding healthcare reform. But America’s seniors knew forcing a bill through congress when Americans overwhelmingly opposed, it would be disastrous. And we were right.

Narrator: President Obama’s health care law cuts $500 billion from Medicare and creates a board of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats. It’s like a Medicare IRS, with the power to cut Medicare in order to pay for new government programs.

Boone: This IPAB board can ration care and deny certain Medicare treatments so Washington can fund more wasteful spending. Your choices could be limited and you may not be able to keep your own doctor. Medicare will be bankrupt in 9 years. But Washington politicians like Jon Tester are ignoring the problem, putting their own re-elections first. Call Senator Tester, urge him to support real Medicare reform and protect our seniors. Tell him unelected bureaucrats should never have the power to deny you the care you deserve.

Watch the ad:

Among the many problems with the ad:

  • The health care act passed two years ago, not last year.
  • Americans did not “overwhelmingly oppose” the law — most polls showed the nation closely divided on the bill at the time of passage.
  • The law did not cut $500 billion from Medicare, but rather slows the rate of future spending growth by that amount. PolitiFact has repeated called these claims false.
  • The IPAB board is nothing like the IRS and its proposed cuts can be rejected by Congress.
  • Even Republican Rep. Fred Upton (MI), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and a strong critic of the Affordable Care Act, says Medicare will not run out of money until 2024 — not in 9 years. Even the group’s own chairman said 10 years as recently as last month.
  • According to a study published by New England Journal of Medicine, the rate of spending growth for Medicare appears to have already gone significantly down since the passage of the healthcare reform law, making any cuts by the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) less likely.
  • The Affordable Care Act has already expanded choice for patients, rather than limit it.
  • On the one hand, Boone worries that Medicare will go bankrupt, but on the other, he worries about the possibility of IPAB cuts to the growth of Medicare. These “cuts” would, of course, be simply slowing the growth of the Medicare system, hardly a raid to pay for “more wasteful spending.”
  • Given 60 Plus’s history of backing a risky Social Security privatization scheme, they hardly have credibility on preserving the safety-net for America’s seniors. Last month, 60 Plus Chairman Jim Martin said “Seniors don’t matter to Democrats, only scaring them to win elections does.” How sadly ironic that that is precisely what his group is attempting to do with these deceitful ads.
  • Update:
  • An earlier version of this story identified the 60 Plus Association as being funded by the pharmaceutical industry. The group asserts it has not received pharmaceutical contributions since 2002. We edited the title to reflect that.